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Full text of "Mind's Eye Summer 1983"

The Mind's Eye 



Summer 1983 



Volume 7 Number 2/4 



The Mind's Eye is a journal of review and comment 
published four times during the college year 
at North Adams, Massachusetts 01247 



NORTH ADAMS STATE COLLEGE 



EDITORIAL BOARD 

Robert Btshoff 
Harris Elder 
W. Anthony Gengarelly 
Stephen A. Green 
R. Michael Haines 
Charles Mclsaac 
Ellen Schiff 



EDITOR 

Charles Mclsaac 



ASSOCIATE EDITOR 

W. Anthony Gengarelly 



Meera Clark 2 Gandhi: The Movie and the Man 

Reflections on Mohandas K. Gandhi and an assessment 
of the film, by a compatriot. 

Dwight Killam 4 "What I Am Is What I Am" 

Contemporary youth's barriers to the appreciation of 
"serious" music. 

Michael Haines 6 The Credit Market 

Higher education reaches for customers in a 
consumer environment. 



VERSE 



Robert Rishoff 



7 



Tornado 



COMMENT 



Charles Mclsaac 



8 



The Editor's File 
Remembering Buffy 

Death of a cat. 



The Enigma of Greatness 



Gandhi: The Movie and the Man 

by Meera Clark 



Richard Attenborough's long-awaited movie 
(twenty years in the making) has turned out 
to he not so much a movie as a phenomenon. 
It lias won five Golden Globe Awards, catapulted 
Ben Kfngsley, a little-known British stage actor of 
half-Indian extraction, into world fame, spawned 
three books written by Attenborough himself, and 
earned reviews which run the lull gamut from unc- 
tuous piety to partisan vituperation. An Indian re- 
viewer, lor example, tails the movie a "devotional 
film, Attenborough's bhnjan to the Mahatma" (MS, 
January 1983), while at the oiher end of the spectrum 
we have a scholar of islam whose article, "False 
Gandhi," in the New Republic (21 March 1983) led 
tfie editors to give it the alternate cover title "Gandhi, 
Holy Humbug" — and at times it is not clear whether 
the reviewers are talking about the movie or the man. 
In between these two extremes are all those profes- 
sional movie critics (Stanley Kaufman and Pauline 
Kael leading the pack) who have damned Gandhi 
with faint praise. 

From a survey of these responses it becomes ob- 
vious that, whatever its cinematic merits or de- 
merits, the movie cannot be evaluated on its own. 
Our response to the movie is inevitably influenced by 
our opinion of Gandhi the marl, the political leader, 
and the spiritual visionary. Indeed, a major problem 
in sorting out my own complex response to Gandhi 
is precisely the fusion of the human being with the 
astute political strategist and the would-be saint. As a 
human being, as his autobiography, The Story of My 
Experiments with Truth, will attest, he was embar- 
rassingly honest; as a political hero he was immensely 
courageous; as a spiritual leader he was often revolu- 
tionary (he worked to abolish the caste system) and 
sometimes merely absurd (witness his preoccupation 
with diet, for example). From all that has been written 
about him — Louis Fischer's The Life of Mahatma 
Gandhi, George Orwell's "Reflections on Gandhi," 
Erik Erikson's Gandhi's Truth, to mention a notable 
few — what emerges is a dynamic leader who was 
neither a saint as popular myth making would have 
him, nor a charlatan as his enemies (admittedly few 
in number) would have us believe, but a man more 
honest and courageous than most, and who suffered 
more than his share of inner contradictions and fail- 
ures of prescience. 

Ironically, when Gandhi failed as a man (he treated 
his wife and children abominably) and as a leader (he 
failed to prevent the Hindu-Moslem riots), he did so 



precisely because he subjugated his human self, his 
human feelings, to an abstract principle. If the abro- 
gation of all human ties in the service of God or of 
any other idea defines sainthood, then, as George 
Orwell points out, a successful saint is a failed human 
being: 

No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth, are things 
that a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing 
that human beings must avoid. . . . Many people 
genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable 
thai some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have 
never felt much lemplatron to be human beings. ("Re- 
flections on Gandhi") 

It is to Gandhi's credit that although he aspired to 
moral perfection and thus, by implication, to saint- 
hood, he never claimed to have achieved it. He had 
too good a sense of humor for that. What is more, he 
recorded with literal honesty his constant struggle 
with the temptation to be human. 

Richard Attenborough's movie chronicles the tri- 
umphant progress of the saint and ignores the 
passionate struggle of the man. The opening shots of 
the film illustrate perfectly Attenborough's aims and 
their inescapable limitations. The movie begins with 
the assassination of Gandhi by a Hindu fanatic, a 
scene shot at point-blank range in a possibly uncon- 
scious parody of the assassin's own method. The 
camera pans overhead as it records the opulent funeral 
that follows: a huge conege massed with flowers 
winding its way slowly amidst an undulating sea of 
mourners, Indian and British. One is suitably im- 
pressed by the mass worship that Gandhi evoked 
while one is at the same lime straining to catch a 
glimpse of the human face. But the face — a small, 
brown, wrinkled nut of a face — is lost among the 
flowers and the mourners. 

It becomes apparent that the British director and the 
Indian masses have accomplished with deadly success 
what Gandhi deprecated all his life — myth making. 
The dead man has been beatified both by the Indian 
need to create a saint, whom one can worship and whose 
all-too-human struggles one can conveniently forget, 
an amnesia mandated by the fact that all the issues 
Gandhi struggled with are alive and not so well, and by 
a British director who, in the best traditions of his race, 
is a past master in shrouding the past with panache, 
with the style of the grand gesture. Both the colonizer 
and the colonized are still bound to each other by their 
hypocrisy, their need to venerate a past and to overlook 
the shambles of the present. 



2 



Where does one go from this grand finale, [he 
martyrdom or the man and the grand exit of an 
empire? Attenborough goes back to the turning point 
in Gandhi's life when as a young British-trained 
lawyer he gets thrown out of a first class carnage on 
his way to practice law in South Africa in the 1890s. 
The young Gandhi, to all appearances a brown Eng- 
lishman, outraged by this brush with apartheid, slow- 
ly evolves the brilliant political tool which succeeds 
by its very outrageousness — non- 
violent resistance to unjust laws, 
practiced earlier by Thoreau and 
later by Martin Luther King. 

Attenborough has been mi Idly- 
damned by all reviewers for his 
"stodgy and cliche'-ridden" cam- 
era work, but given his limited 
conception of the movie, his con- 
ventional technique intensifies 
the impact of the collision between two implacable 
forces: the British will to imperialism and the Indian 
will to independence. While our curiosity as to how 
the young, seemingly naive Gandhi evolves into the 
political sophisticate is never answered, the scenes of 
confrontation between the passive resisters and the 
British are strangely moving. Attenborough has been 
quoted as saying chat he adores courage, and indeed, 
the movie is most successful as a paean to the greater 
courage, both moral and physical, involved in passive 
resistance than in taking arms. Indeed. I have a 
suspicion that if Attenbotough's technique had been 
as sophisticated and innovative as Warren Beatty's in 
Reds, the sense of an epic struggle would have been 
lost, as it was in Reds, in which Beatty never achieved 
a balance between the personal and political themes 
jof the movie. The political struggle in Gandhi, by 
comparison, never gets obscured, and the impact of 
some scenes — for example, where under General 
Dyer's orders British troops open fire on a captive, 
unarmed crowd in Amritsar — are visually very effec- 
tive and therefore harrowing in the extreme. 

However, Attenborough 's lack of directorial sub- 
tlety works against the depiction of Gandhi the 
man in his dealings with his wife and children, And 
here we come to a-very troubling question: when does 
charismatic leadership, so necessary to achieve politi- 
cal revolution, slip over into dogmatism, into tyranny? 
The other face of the saint, however we define saint- 
hood (purity of motive, willingness to sacrifice one's 
own life and the lives of others for a principle), is the 
face of the emotional blackmailer who is so convinced 
of the purity of his motives, the Tightness of his 
belief, that he does not hesitate to impose his will on 
others. 

Gandhi as the emotional blackmailer is most in 
evidence in his relationship with his wife. The hero 




as domestic tyrant is, of course, nothing new. All our 
revered spiritual and political leaders from St. Paul 
and St. Jerome to Karl Marx, John Kennedy, and 
Martin Luther King have made their immediate de- 
pendents, women, objects for the exercise of their 
will, either in the service of misogyny or satyriasis. 
Fear of sexuality, fear of women, has led the best of 
men into two extremes — celibacy or debauchery. 
Gandhi chose the former, and when he decided to 
take a vow of chastity, it never 
occurred to him to consuli his 
wife's wishes in the matter. What 
was right for him had to be, 
willy-nilly, right for her. And 
this in a man who worked for 
the emancipation of women. 

Equally egocentric was an ex- 
periment he conducted later in 
life — he slept naked with two 
young women to prove his freedom from all desire. 
What about the psychological effects of such experi- 
mentation, of being used as guinea pigs, on the two 
young women who, overawed by Gandhi's strength 
of personality, were not even free to think for them- 
selves? This monstrous lack of consideration, we must 
remind ourselves, existed side by side with a very real, 
genuine compassion for the poor and the downtrod- 
den. Attenborough glosses over all these troubling 
inconsistencies and Gandhi's wife, played by Rohini 
Hattangady, emerges as the meek Hindu wife so dear 
to the imagination of the West, while the reality was 
that she fought Gandhi every inch of the way and 
suffered intensely through Gandhi's unimpeded pro- 
gress towards sainthood. 

Another, perhaps even more troubling, aspect of 
Gandhi's myopia is barely touched on by Atten- 
borough. When Gandhi is asked by the American 
photographer Margaret Bourke-White, played by Gan- 
dice Bergen, whether nonviolent resistance would 
have triumphed against the Nazis, he replies with the 
evasion characteristic of many mystics, "Injustice must 
be fought." How, it is not clear. Orwell is right when 
he says that "Gandhi, who after all was born in 1869, 
did not understand the nature of totalitarianism and 
saw everything in terms of his own struggle against 
the British government." 

Attenborough's film does not trouble itself with 
contradictions and shortcomings. Perhaps, given the 
complexity of the man and the magnitude of the 
issues, it could not. Gandhi the man needs a director 
of fngmar Bergman's or Satyagit Ray's subtlety to do 
minimal justice to his complexity, but then neither 
Bergman nor Ray would have made a spectacular 
chronicle of epic struggle. For what, finally, Atten- 
borough has achieved is a movie of the same ilk as 
other such historical epics — Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. 
Zhivago, Reds— whose chief characteristic is that they 



3 



arc riveting while you are watching them and utterly 
forgettable once you have left the theatre. 

Ben Kingsley has received such acclaim for playing 
Gandhi that it may seem uncharitable, quibbling (o 
question the merit of his performance. And yet, when I 
consider that the movie along with the central character 
is forgettable, 1 have to ask myself whether Kingsley's 
portrayal is not more a brilliant impersonation (the 
walk, the twinkle, the resemblance) than good acting. 
From the beginning lo the end, although achieving a 
startling verisimilitude, Kingsley does not suggest the 
growth and change which mark the human, rather 
than the mythical, face. But then, again, the limitations 
of Kingsley's performance reflect the director's. The 
same can be said of the rest of the casting. What a 
glorious procession of names — Athol Fugat'd, John 
Gielgud, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Michael Hor- 
dern, Edward Fox, Candice Bergen, Martin Sheen. 
The very names induce a frisson of glamor and their 



faces achieve arresting images without even trying. 

Is the movie worth the ticket price and its inordinate 
length (three and one-half hours)? Would I recommend 
that my students see it? Most certainly, yes, just as I 
would recommend Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhtvago, 
Reds, and other such shallow historical epics. This is, 
above all, an age dominated by the visual media and, 
given what George Sterner calls "the organized amnesia 
of American schooling/' there is nothing infra dig 
about jolting ourselves into awareness by seeing movies 
with pretensions. Bad art or non-art has its uses, if it is 
seen with discriminating judgment; and if we as 
teachers can prod ourselves and our students into 
thinking and inquiring further about historical issues, 
we may hope, with Stephen Dedalus, eventually to 
awake from the nightmare of history. 



Meera Clark, associate professor of English at North Adams 
State College, writes on Shakespeare and detective fiction. 



Pride and Prejudice in the Freshman Music Course 

"What I Am Is What I Am" 

by Dwight Killam 



The sentence fairly leaped out from one of 
the student evaluations I had requested at the 
close of the freshman music course. The exact 
wording is forgotten, but the message remains firmly 
embedded in my consc iousness. It said 

We are blue-collar children of blue-collar parents, and I 
think it is very unfair of you to expect us to adopt your 
upper-class values and tastes. 

There it was in black and white: the nagging doubt 
which lias hovered in the misty recesses of my thoughts, 
now confronting me and demanding attention. Some 
of the responses during the year which has elapsed 
since I first read those words are offered here, rather for 
the purpose of stimulating thoughts and eliciting 
comments than in any spirit of preaching or pontifi- 
cating. 

Certainly one response is to dismiss the indictment 
out of hand. This is, after all, the judgment of one 
student in one course. Nothing of the same kind has 
crossed my desk before or since. But the impact of the 
comment derived more from my own corroborating 
observations than from any supporting communica- 
tions of students or other teachers. The more I con- 
sidered it, the more aware I became of the many fac- 
tors which encourage such an attitude. And so I ask 
you to look for a few moments at the world of glori- 
ous musical traditions, of virtuoso performances, 



of inspiring masterworks, of brilliant experiments, 
through the eyes of a blue-collar college freshman. 

ONE THING NEEDS TO BE ESTABLISHED before going 
further: the student's self-description is accurate. 
Apart from the blue-collar appellation, which by no 
means applies to all, it describes the typical student at 
our school. Such a student comes to us with no 
experience of live performance of "classical" music, 
with little or no experience with recorded classical 
music, and in most cases with no personal performing 
experience. Let us keep this background in mind as we 
consider situations in which the student may encounter 
classical music. 

When students attend an orchestral or chamber 
concert (a course requirement), they see performers 
dressed in formal evening wear. They see an audience 
dressed, however informally, in expensive clothes and 
behaving very sedately, The program lists as sponsors 
the leading local figures in industry and the profes- 
sions. Program notes are written in an unintelligible 
jargon w ; hich tells nothing about what one might 
expect to hear. Surely all these perceptions support the 
judgment that this is music for a very different, 
obviously wealthier culture than the one of which the 
students are a part. A common criticism in the reviews 
they write is that performers do not talk with the 
audience during the concert — a behavior directly op- 



I 



posite to their expectations arid one which symbolizes 
their cultural conflict with the experience. 

II by sonic accident students tune ill a radio broad- 
cast ol classical music, they are most- likely to en- 
counter a commentator whose carefully modulated 
voice and deferential treatment of his subject further 
Strengthens their conviction that this is music for an 
esoteric elite. 

II during their passage through the freshman music 
course, they actually do some reading about the lives 
of the composers whose music they are supposed to 
appreciate, they quickly learn that most of them were 
employed or supported by wealthy members of the 
nobility. The situation of those composers who were 
not financially successful is explained by the fact that 
they were unable to secure a rich patron. Little atten- 
tion is paid in most texts to the popu- 
lar success of such composer-perform- 
ers as Chopin, Liszt, or even Beethoven. 
On the other hand, the story ol wealthy 
patronage continues right up through 
Tchaikovsky and Wagner, about as far 
as many courses ever get. If the twenti- 
eth century is discussed at all, there is 
probably reference to the rejections suf- 
fered by Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Varesc, 
and others, further reinforcing the per- 
ception that this art form has meaning 
only lor a small elitist clique. 

Occasionally a work escapes from the 
classical repertory and is wholeheartedly 
embraced by the general public. When 
this happens, we are likely to read (lor 
instance) that the Pachelbel Canon has 
been "cheapened," or that Ravel's Bolero was never 
really good music anyway. Indeed, it seems that the 
most damning criticism which can be leveled against 
a piece of serious music is that it is too "commercial." 

On reflection, therefore, and given his experience 
and point of view', there appears to be ample 
justification for my student's opinion. What responses 
can we make? One which we can prohahly dismiss 
rather quickly is to admit the truth of the charge, 
agree that aesthetic preference is a function of socio- 
economic status, and go out of the music appreciation 
business. I suspect we are not likely to give this 
option any serious consideration. 

Possibly the easiest response we can offer is simply to 
affirm that understanding of great music is a necessary 
part of liberal education: if students come to be 
educated, we will educate them according toour deeply 
held beliefs about what is of most value. Questioning 
our judgment is not the students' prerogative. IT one 
subscribes to that view, there is little more to be said. In 
this case, however, it would seem that one should be 
very thoughtful and certain about those things which 
are of most value. (1 fear that sometimes we are not.) 




A rather different response, but one with quite 
similar consequences, would be to say to the student: 
"You are right. Appreciation ol great art is one of the 
attributes of the upper class. Your presence here in a 
program of career preparation is evidence of your 
desire to move into that class. To reach your goal, 
you must learn and assimilate as your own not only 
the professional skills but also the attitudes and values 
of the elite you wash to join. We are here to help you 
do that." Viewed from this perspective, music appreci- 
ation joins the endless parade of systems and tracts 
which offer "guaranteed" routes to acceptance and 
success — a sort of culture-centered version of The 
Official Preppy Handbook. Whatever our conscious 
reaction to this approach to the problem, I submit 
that many of us in the "culture business" are prone 
to use it when we feel it will help the 
cause; certainly the advertising profes- 
sion consistently employs classical mu- 
sic to promote its position as hand- 
maiden to status. Perhaps we need to 
consider the extent to which we foster 
this materialistic measure of musical 
taste, intentionally or otherwise, and 
to what extent we ourselves accept it, 

Of course, many of us would respond 
by denying the truth of the student's 
accusation on one basis or another, de- 
spite the circumstantial evidence which 
supports it. We would say that the 
experience of beautiful music tran- 
scends class barriers and cliquish con- 
formity of dress, language, and behav- 
ior. All of us can point to success 
stories supporting that belief; that same batch of 
student evaluations contained a glowing expression 
of thanks from a student who had been "introduced 
to a new and glorious world which was totally closed 
to me before." On the other hand, I have to suggest 
that we cannot in all honesty call up examples of 
Italian barbers who sing Verdi or of German chauf- 
feurs who love every note of Wagner. My student 
would argue that if such people exist they are denizens 
of another culture, and I would have to agree. After 
all, our American taxi drivers sing Neil Diamond and 
our truckers render John Denver. However, we do 
unquestionably bring many students to an awareness, 
even an enjoyment, of an art they never previously 
understood. Does that presumed success refute the 
charge? How many do we reach? What proportion of 
all the students we teach do they represent? And how 
lasting is the effect? Our commonly held and comfort- 
ing assumption needs challenging, it seems to me. 

One path which would seem to avoid the issue 
altogether is the route which focuses on the structural 
music characteristics of a composition rather than on 
value judgments about its quality. Indeed, this is 
how my course is structured: it moves through the 



5 



elements of sound and seeks to illustrate how com- 
posers have organized them to create various styles of 
musical composition. I quite intentionally seek to 
maintain a balanced representation of the styles, with 
approximately equal samples of the historical periods, 
jaii, rock, and current popular music, f try to keep 
the focus on the various ways in which composers 
use the.se sound elements, not on judgments about 
the ultimate worth of the creative outcome. Still, my 
bias shows, as is obvious from the comment which 
generated this discussion. I also get accused of de- 
stroying the illusion, the sense of mystery and adven- 
ture which many see as the hallmark of successful art. 
So this approach, also, demands some soul-searching 
for, as my student has demonstrated, it does not 
dispose of the problem. 

Yet another answer may have occurred to some 
who have followed the argument thus far, an 
answer I might like to accept' bul cannot. It is the 
traditional Idealist position that genuine masterpieces 
transcend all boundaries. An instructor in an aes- 
thetics course once confidently told me, "An illiterate 
savage from a remote Pacific jungle would recognize 
the glory of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling or 
the power of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony the first 
time he experienced them," 1 have two observations 
about this belief. First, if it is valid, why do we have 
courses in music appreciation? All we need is a 
prescribed listening series — a sort of "Great Books" 



of music. (Perhaps thai is not such a bad idea; 
indeed, 1 seem to remember that it has been tried.) 
But secondly, and more seriously, my experience is 
that this idea, appealing though it may be, is simply 
not true. One New York jazz critic was heard to say, 
"Anyone who thinks music is the universal language 
has never heard the Peking Opera." To that I would 
add that anyone who thinks music is the universal 
language has never tried playing Beethoven for an 
American junior high school music class. If we claim 
universal validity for art. does it not have 10 be 
universal in fact? I think this faith, tempting as it is, 
is not a reliable ground lor action, 

That exhausts my present list of possible responses. 
No doubt there are more, and no doubt someone will 
suggest them sooner or later. For now, 1 offer no 
answers. Instead, every way of looking at the music 
professor's role raises questions in my mind. I per- 
sonally expect to continue believing (hat great art has 
value for all people and that it transcends class dis- 
tinctions. I will keep trying to convince my students 
of that, and trying lo sweep away the false images 
that collect around our musical treasures, And I will 
suffer gladly the patronising slings and arrows of 
those who will call me a popularize]. 

Dwight Killam is professor of music at North Adams State 
College and a past president of the Massachusetts Music 
Association. This article is adapted from an address la A 
Symposium on Music for the General College .Student at 
Filchburg State College. 



The Selling of Academe 

The Credit Market 

by Michael Haines 



A college or university is a business. These 
days, that fact becomes more obvious as the 
competition for students intensifies. Colleges 
hire development officers, they do market research 
into prospective clientele, they advertise (often with 
slick, Madison Avenue-type brochures that look like 
"promos" for property in Florida or Arizona), they 
speak in terms of production of FTEs or credit hours, 
and like banks in the Depression (or, sadly, in the 
present) they occasionally go under. No one would 
deny that college is a business. 

But what, exactly, does a college sell? The right 
answer lo the question is education. However, if one 
reads a college catalog closely (say, ours, for instance), 
he has to conclude that the real business of colleges is 
the selling of credits. 

Colleges, of course, traditionally charge by the 
credit. Full-time students (those who take a minimum 
of 12 credits per semester) pay a set amount, while 
part-timers pay so much per credit, as do students in 



continuing education. I suppose that this system is 
more efficient than trying to charge students accord- 
ing to how much they learn, and I really have no 
argument wiih it. 

Where I do have a problem is with the various means 
of giving credit for learning which does not take place 
at the institution awarding the credit. I have no 
difficulty with transfer credit which represents a recip- 
rocal agreement among institutions lo recognize learn- 
ing gained at those institutions. But I am greatly 
troubled by credit awarded in the Advanced Placement 
Program (AP), in the College Level Examination 
Program (CLEP), for experiences in military services, 
for departmental challenge examinations, and for the 
portfolios presented in prior learning programs. 

Here i wish to emphasize that I do not question 
the validity of the experiences leading to the 
granting of credit in each of these programs, nor am I 
specif ically challenging the instruments used to evalu- 



Tornado 

by Robert Bishoff 

Beneath the thick mattress 

We lay huddled together 

Listening to the wind 

Playing out its score 

Across the plains, 

Beethoven, Bach — something 

Baroque? Certainly it wasn't Brahms. 

I should learn music, 

I whispered. 
It's getting closer, isn't it, 

You replied, 
And shifting, pulled us deeper 
Into softness. 

The crescendo began. 
The walls will fall, 

You said, 
Hold on! 1 love you! 
I held 

Waiting for the cymbal crash. 
It never came. 

Instead we heard the rumble 

Of freight cars as a train passed through. 

Brahms after all, 

I said; 

And pulling you close 
F closed my eyes. 



are such experiences. Though I do have some qualms 
about some of the standardized tests (especially CLEP), 
I respect the evaluation ol prior learning portfolios as 
thorough and professional. The portfolio experience 
on this campus is certainly not a walk-through lor 
the applicants. In fact, the portfolios arc more than 
"instruments": their very composition constitutes a 
rigorous learning process. In the best of all possible 
worlds every incoming student would be as thorough- 
ly evaluated in order to find the level at which he or 
she should start. 

The question remains, however, what a college — 
this college — should do with the student from that 
point on. I suspect we cannot easily get out of meas- 
uring learning with credits, but what I would like to see 
is the "sale" (if you must) to students of 120 credits' 
worth (or four years' worth) of supervised learning 
from the entry level onward. In place of granting credit 
lor various kinds of prior learning, what I think is more 
appropriate is to waive whatever courses contain 
material that a student lias already mastered. What we 
would then be saying to the student is: "You have 
entered at such and such a level; we are therefore going 
to waive you out of certain courses, giving you no credit 
for them, and then we are going to educate you for lour 
years (120 credits' worth) more. Our bachelor's degree 
will thus represent four years of learning which we 
have supervised. Since you are entering at a higher level 
than other students, at the end of four years you will 
presumably leave here at a higher level than they will." 

What I am suggesting is by no means unworkable. 
We have been doing it in a small way for a lew years 
in our own English department. Under a previous 
system by using a writing examination, and under 
the current system of using in-class evaluation of 
writing, we have waived Composition I, and even 
Composition II — we have not granted credit but have 
simply waived the courses. We have thus adopted the 
practice of recognizing a given level of skill and of 
allowing students to enter at that level but without 
reducing the number of credits students must take. 
Nor does a waived course have to be replaced with 
another English course (we are not trying to protect 
our own offerings), Instead, the student has gained 
three elective credits. 

If this sort of thing were done with all types of 
prior learning, our students would be the benefici- 
aries: they would obviously learn more because they 
would have the opportunity to lake more, and pre- 
sumably higher-level, courses and would finish col- 
lege with a comparably better education. The degree 
itself would remain the same, but there would be a 
world of difference in the transcript. 

Students, however, would not be the only ones to 
benefit; the institution would profit as well because it 
would enhance the legitimacy of its degree. If we give 
college credits for learning which we do not directly 



Robert Bishoff is assistant professor of English at North 
Adams State College. 

supervise, how are we different from the "diploma 
mills" where one can get — for a price — a mail order 
degree? 

We ought not to be in the business, I think, of 
selling credits or of certifying prior learning by the 
awarding of credits. Rather, we ought to be selling 
learning — learning which lakes place under our su- 
pervision after the student enters. Failure to do this 
undercuts the credibility of the degree we offer. 

Let me again make clear that I am not attacking 
the integrity or professionalism of the evaluation 
of prior learning, I am calling into question the 
principle of whether it ought to be done at all. What 
is the basic philosophical concept of a baccalaureate 
degree? Should it represent a certification of minimal 
levels of skill and competence in certain disciplines, 
or should it denote four years of college-level learning 



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directed by the institution granting the degree? Ob- 
viously, I would opt for the latter. 

Nor should my reflections be read as a rejection of the 
credibility (and creditability) of any of a number of 
learning experiences which are non traditional, such as 
internships, experimental or less orthodox endeavors 
like Winter Study, or courses it) subjects outside the 
realm of the traditional academic disciplines. I am 
perfectly willing to grant students credit for experiences 
of an artistic or cultural nature if it will encourage 



them to indulge and respond. My argument is not with 
the subject matter but with the question of whether the 
credit-grunting agency actually directs the learning 
experience. The problem is only partially with content 
but more radically with control — a kind of control that 
will achieve superior content. 



Michael Haines, chairman of the English Department at 
North Adams Stale College, is a specialist in medieval 
literature. 



The Editor's File 

Remembering Buffy 



Buffy died July 2, 1982. His kidneys, we were 
told, had stopped functioning, he ate prac- 
tically nothing, and his weight fell from ten 
pounds to four, Our hearts ached watching him fade 
away. 

He was our beloved friend for twelve years. A 
wonderfully self-contained cat, he seemed to know 
much more than he let on, which gave us a special 
feeling about him. We fancied he understood every 
word we said, but he kept his own counsel in I 
of a proper cat, and we will not know until t 
world what he really thought about things. We 
spoke to him tenderly and respectfully as befi 
dignity and never talked about him in his ; 
except in tones at which, if he were pres- 
ent, he would not take offense. He spent a 
•lot of time out of the house discharging 
his mouse patrol duties in the meadow, 
(He learned early in life not to range too 
far, after (he local fox chased him out of 
there one sunny afternoon.) 

In summer he would leave early in the 
morning, returning at noon kit a snack 
and an afternoon's nap on one of his beds 
(there are six in the house, and all were his), . 
five o'clock he would go out again until nim 
or eleven, depending on the volume of busine 
what other mysterious interests the night In 
tween times, if we were sitting on the po 
would appear and spend a convivial few i 
with us. These visits were a special benison lor which 
we were duly grateful— a rest between his labors and 
an extra chance for us to admire his grace and beauty. 

Buffy was not what you call an affectionate cat. He 
would be more accurately described as purposeful. 
He did, however, make a regular concession to senti- 
ment, especially in winter. Every evening between 
eight-thirty and nine he would thump down from 
upstairs on his four double paws, hop up into his 



mistress's lap, and spend an hour or two helping her 
read the newspaper or a book, or do her school work. 
He was very keen on this and hardly ever forgot. It 
made a great bond between them which she sorely 
misses. Naturally, she is quite sad. And so am I 
because I held him in great esteem. He had all the 
assurance and insouciance which I want for myself 
but have failed to achieve in a lifetime of striving. 



Editor's Mote. These lirtes were written a month after Buffy 
left us. He is still missed. His "sister, " Ginger, a female dog, 
died August 6, 1983, of heart disease. Ginger was thirteen; she 
c ame to us in 1970, in the same week as Buffy. They were great 
friends. Now they lie side by side in the meadow. 



The drawings in this issue are by Susan Morris of East Dover, 
Vermont. 



he way TA7 E LA,n H1M TO REST 1,1 ms meadow wrapped in 
he next VV the indigo towel with which we used to pal 
always him dry when he came in from the rain— it was right 
tted his that it should be his shroud. His eyes were open a 
ibsence tiny crack, the way they were when he used to peek at 
us when we thought he was asleep. It is 
=2* ~ comforting to glance up there and murmur 

I a soft greeting, remembering with a pang 
i our joyful ebullience when we came home 
of evenings and he "materialized" out of 
S^-fN^v^ 'he shadows to do welcoming roll-overs 



1 J— f , Knowing he is not here any more comes 



, VJL 1 in the driveway. 



to us in bits and pieces. We cannot give 
him up in one leap. Love is not like that. 
Ground We loved him dearly. 

» or ten We are grateful that he came into this house, a blue- 

ts or on eyed buff and white kitten who added riches to our 
■Id. Be- lives. He has taken a parr of us with him, and we are 
rch, he diminished. We have lei him go, but we cannot forget, 
ninutes —Charles Mclsaac 



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